Are you worried that your child is addicted to screens? They may have a smartphone and a tablet; and if they’re in middle school or high school, they’ve got a laptop. A recent Pew Research Center study reported that 71% of parents of a child under the age of 12 say they are at least somewhat concerned their child might ever spend too much time in front of screens, including 31% who are very concerned.
Board-certified Dr. Ugonma Okparaocha with Laurel Pediatric & Teen Medical Center treats the whole child so that your loved one can thrive in all aspects of life. Following are helpful guidelines that give you a roadmap for managing your child's screen time.
How much screen time is too much?
We follow the guidelines of the American Academy of Pediatrics when it comes to screen time. Your baby shouldn’t be sitting in front of a screen. For children ages 2-5, we recommend limiting screen time to one hour a day of high-quality educational programming.
In general, children and teens in the United States today spend too much time on screens. On average, children ages 8-12 spend 4-6 hours a day watching or using screens, and teens spend up to 9 hours.
Your growing child needs at least one hour of physical activity every day. In addition, your child needs adequate sleep: 8-12 hours of sleep nightly, depending on their age. Screen time and digital technology should be balanced with other activities, including creative play, reading, and socializing.
Harmful effects of too much screen time
Too much time in front of the TV and other screens can lead to negative physical, psychological, social, and neurological consequences such as the following:
Childhood obesity is an epidemic. Too many hours and days spent watching TV and playing video games while eating high-calorie snacks can lead to weight gain. Physical activity is important for good health in your growing child or teen.
Does it take forever for your child to go to sleep once they’re in bed? Exposure to light from screen devices can disrupt sleep and lead to poor sleep quality. In fact, children who sleep with their mobile devices are at increased risk of insomnia.
A study in JAMA Psychiatry notes that maladaptive behaviors such as aggression and mood disorders such as anxiety and depression are associated with children’s excessive use of handheld devices and computers or TV viewing.
Poor academic performance
When children under 12 have TVs in the bedroom, research shows by and large they perform more poorly on tests than children who don’t have screens in the bedroom. Studies note that when children and adolescents spend a large amount of time on screens, academic performance declines.
Too many hours of seeing people hurt other people on TV and in video games can desensitize children to violence. They may become numb or insensitive to violent behavior and think that it’s an acceptable way to solve problems.
What you can do to limit screen time
Here are some actions you can take to restrict screen time:
- Turn off the TV when no one is watching
- Don’t put TVs in your children’s bedrooms
- Eat dinner as a family around a table, not in front of the TV
- Plan alternate activities for your children, e.g. sports and hobbies
- Be a good example — put down your own devices
- Turn off all screens at least one hour before bedtime
- Watch programs with your child and discuss what you’re seeing
- Be consistent in keeping boundaries
As with all other aspects of parenting, ensuring your child’s digital health requires diligence and a balanced approach.
If you have questions about your child’s screen time and for all of your children’s pediatric needs, call Laurel Pediatric & Teen Medical Center in Bel Air, Maryland or request an appointment via our online portal.